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There were three girls in my sixth grade class who I thought were beautiful: Jenny Boersma, Peggy Dornberger and Sherryl Greenlee. I never got anywhere with any of them, because I was really a nerd. I had big lips, wore thick glasses and had no athletic skills at all. I did better with the girls in our church youth group. Maybe the church group spoke a different language.

My first date was with Donna Saunders, who had recently moved to town and was in the church group. I asked her to go with me to a movie. I was 12 years old and she was 13. I arranged for my older brother, Spike, to borrow the family car and take me over to East Sioux Falls to pick up Donna. She lived near Cliff Avenue and the Morrel’s meat packing company. We picked her up and then Spike delivered the two of us to the State Theater downtown on Philips Avenue. 

In 1947 a new movie called The Wizard of Oz came out and was the biggest attraction that everyone wanted to see. It had just come to the State Theater and the theater was packed. I was a little unsure how to act, so we just held hands during the movie. There was no question in the hearts of either of us though that this must be love. After the movie we walked down Philips Avenue to a diner and had a coke.

The bus route covered both the east side of town where Donna lived, and the west side of town where I lived. Connecting the two circles, the bus made a loop through downtown where the two cinemas were. After paying for the 5-cent coke, we then caught the bus which went to within a block of her house.

While we were on the bus it dawned on me that this bus went as far as the Morell’s Meat Packing plant and then turned around retracing the route by going over to the west side of town, a route that went near my home. So I let her know that I was going to stay on the bus and save the price of another fare (15 cents). When we got to the stop near her house we said goodbyes without kissing, and I stayed on the bus with an extra 15 cents in my pocket. 

Donna’s family moved from Sioux Falls shortly after that, so we never had another date. I didn’t see what was so great about this dating business and I didn’t have another one until I was in high school.

Bob Larsen

Bob Larsen is a retired surgeon whose eclectic career has allowed him to see the world.

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